On Tuesday, hikers will speak out on a plan to allow mountain bikers in the currently tranquil Watchung Reservation.
The Union County Department of Parks & Recreation will present the Watchung Reservation Trails Master Plan at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Trailside Nature & Science Center, 452 New Providence Road, Mountainside. Thirteen and a half miles of new trails restricted to mountain biking will be constructed. Portions of the Sierra Trail and other existing trails will be shared with mountain biking.
Not knowing a lot about mountain biking, I just viewed a video on bikemag.com and I can see how it is incompatible with hiking on foot and nature study. Mountain biking emphasizes speed and high-impact tricks that are the polar opposite of the hiking experience.
Our own Billy Toth often shares his hiking experiences on Facebook, showing beautiful vistas from parks around Central Jersey, including many from the Watchung Reservation. He is quoted extensively in the Courier News today in a front-page, A-1 over-the-fold story that lays out the hikers' specific case against mountain bike use in the Reservation.
If you agree with him, give your input at Tuesday's meeting or let your Union County freeholders know how you feel about having mountain bikes being permitted in the Watchung Reservation. The news article notes that when given a chance in 1995-96, "reckless wheelers blew the opportunity because they frightened hikers and horses with sudden approaches and didn’t work to maintain the trails."
The article states that other nearby counties have mountain bike trails, so fans of the sport do have choices. Must the Watchung Reservation be despoiled for the sake of this raucous sport? I personally share Billy Toth's reverence for the natural world and agree that mountain biking is incompatible with hiking and nature study.